Carnarvon's most valuable resource – our volunteers

on 17 Dec 2015 

Living on a remote reserve comes with many challenges and, believe it or not, leaving the reserve can often become one of the major ones – especially during wildfire season or leaving behind a menagerie of orphaned wildlife. 

Our Bush Heritage volunteers provide an invaluable resource to the reserves. All our volunteers offers their own individual skill sets, but equally important is the confidence in knowing that the person coming into your home to check your freezers after a power failure, or the person engaging with your children, is someone you can truly trust and rely on. As Reserve Managers, we continue to be incredibly grateful for the wonderful network of volunteers that have come across our path here at Carnarvon, and the unique and rich experiences our family have enjoyed thanks to them.

Our first volunteers for the year arrived in April to help with ecological surveys undertaken by Queensland Ecologist Murray Haseler. Volunteers, Terry Cooke and Eleanor Sobey certainly put in a mile or two during their stay, traversing the reserve while helping with a dingo activity survey and a cypress pine yield estimate. 

The dingo survey was aimed at determining the level of dingo activity on the reserve based on track numbers. Tracks were recorded from specially prepared sand pads, spread across more than 30km. The findings provide an index of dingo activity on the reserve and can now be compared with other locations. 

Yield estimates on the cypress pine population on Carnarvon were taken to measure the density and size of some of the better stands on the reserve. This knowledge is invaluable to Bush Heritage given that the cypress has been identified as potentially under threat from logging in the future.  

A professional photographer from Armidale in NSW, Terry never ventured too far without his camera and as a result, Bush Heritage now has a stunning portfolio of photographs taken during Terry and Ellie’s time here. 

In August we had the pleasure of hosting our first supporter trip in quite a few years. Although the deadlines were tight, July brought about much needed help from Stuart and Sue Jones alongside Alec Kerr as we undertook a massive renovation project to upgrade the accommodation barracks and cottage.

A new kitchen, floor coverings, a total paint job, new bedding and a particularly regal staircase are now part of the new accommodation facilities on Carnarvon. During their stay, Sue not only took on some much needed spring cleaning of the visitor accommodation but also managed to fit in some afternoon knitting lessons with our three daughters – a skill I was never very keen to master.

The renovation project was given its finishing touches by Peter and Narelle Mills who worked tirelessly to finish the project on time. With a career in National Parks, Pete came with a wealth of knowledge and skills in conservation and in particular, a meticulous understanding of aboriginal culture and history.

Narelle’s famous scones and delicious cheesecake recipe remains a staple still today, after she speedily contributed to some baking for the upcoming supporter trip while Pete and Chris finished off the specially designed fire pit. The fire pit was enjoyed for the first time by our supporters who drove in the very next day after we said our goodbyes to Pete and Relle. 

John and Judy Macfarlane also made a trip to Carnarvon this year. After volunteering several years ago, John always hoped to return to Carnarvon to enjoy some of the experiences he missed during his first visit. John and Judy based themselves at the cottage while they contributed to further maintenance on the visitor accommodation. And with caretakers on board, our family took the opportunity to get away for a long week-end which included our annual athletics carnival for the girl’s through their Capricornia School of Distance Education. 

As the warmer weather arrived in September, Peter and Margie Calder took on the tedious task of applying granular herbicide to 32km of woody weed regrowth along the southern and western boundaries. We’re also very appreciative of the repairs done by Peter and Margie to the old meat-house, particularly given its heritage value to the reserve.

Peter and Margie are long-term volunteers and were the very first volunteers on Carnarvon. We were delighted by the opportunity to reminisce when the couple brought out some photos of the work done on the reserve in the early years after it was purchased by Bush Heritage in 2001. 

He’s a marine biologist by trade and out here, he’s a long way from the ocean, but Tom Cowling can turn his hand at just about anything and welding and fabrication is no exception. Tom and his wife Cheryle, came to Carnarvon as first-time volunteers in October this year and returned back in November after we happened to mention a family reunion we were hoping to attend.

Tom and Cheryle’s contribution included some major project work around the fabrication and installation of several gates along the boundary fence. This infrastructure now allows us to more easily manage neighbouring cattle straying onto the reserve.

Of course, most of our family holidays take place during school holiday periods so for our volunteers, making themselves available during these periods can come at a cost to their own families. Ivan Schuh has completed several stints on Carnarvon and is back with us again care-taking over the Christmas period. After spending much of his career as a stockman working on Carnarvon and other neighbouring properties, Ivan knows Carnarvon like the back of his hand and continues to astound us with his knowledge of Carnarvon’s history and its special places.

As we head towards our 7th year on the reserve, Chris and I continue to marvel at our good fortune in being stationed in such an amazing place and at this incredible opportunity we’re able to offer our children. With all Carnarvon has to offer, our volunteers provide an additional layer of enrichment to our lives here on the reserve.

From each of us, our heartfelt appreciation!